NCAA set to lower marijuana penalties for student-athletes and raise THC threshold in drug tests

An American sprinter who was suspended from competing at the 2021 Summer Olympics due to a positive marijuana test challenges the recent decision to allow a Russian skater to continue competing at this month’s winter games- This despite the discovery that she had tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug.

Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspension last year sparked an international conversation about the global sports policy banning Olympians from using cannabis, and it even sparked a scientific review of the policy by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

But now the runner is openly wondering why she suffered serious consequences when Russian skater Kamila Valieva, who helped her team win gold in one race and is considered the favorite for a separate race, is allowed to compete. even after testing positive for a ban. substance.

Richardson said Monday she was confused by the apparent double standard. She said she wanted to “get a solid answer about how different her situation is from mine.”

“My mother passed away and I can’t run and I was also favored to finish in the top 3,” she wrote, referring to the personal circumstances she says led her to use cannabis into a legal state last year. “The only difference I see is that I’m a young black woman.”

“It’s all in the skin,” Richardson tweeted.

It’s certainly a legitimate question, as black people have always tended to be held to higher and more discriminatory standards, especially when it comes to drugs.

Richardson also pointed out that cannabis is “not a performance-enhancing drug.”

The performance-enhancing drug Valieva tested positive for, trimetazidine, is known to increase exercise duration and improve heart performance – effects that could have helped her, for example, historically land the first quadruple jumps performed. by a woman in an Olympic event this month. .

That said, there are other functional differences between the cases as well.

On the one hand, Richardson’s suspension was a decision made by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which operates under international athletics rules and expressed sympathy for the situation, but ultimately insisted on the fact that her hands were tied.

Valieva, meanwhile, has been temporarily suspended by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) after her positive doping test results were released. The test was carried out in December, so there are questions about when the information was published, but in any case, RUSADA later lifted the temporary suspension, to be challenged by WADA, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Skating Union. (UIS).

On Friday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) — an international body that resolves these types of Olympic disputes — issued a statement dismissing the challenges, allowing Valieva to continue competing. However, some penalties have been imposed by the IOC, such as there will be no medal ceremony for her event if she finishes in the top three.

Although Richardson said she believes race may have played a role in the two different outcomes, the CAS said the reason was primarily because the 15-year-old skater is a minor and therefore a “protected person.” which is subject to a different standard under the WADA code.

“The RUSADA and WADC Anti-Doping Rules are silent with respect to Provisional Suspension imposed on Protected Persons, while these rules contain specific provisions for different standards of proof and for lower sanctions in the case of Protected Persons” , did he declare.

“The ad hoc division of CAS has been asked to decide the narrow question of whether a provisional suspension should be imposed on the athlete. It has not been asked to rule on the merits of this case, nor to examine the legal consequences linked to the results of the team event in figure skating, these questions will be examined in other proceedings,” he said. he continued.

Richard Pound, WADA’s first president, told Marijuana Moment in a Monday phone interview that “certainly at the Olympics there’s no racial bias in anything we do.”

“I think the key for the Russian is that she’s underage,” he said.

However, some American sports commentators are surprised by the decision of the CAS. But despite the details and ongoing questions about this case, it’s the latest example of how the intersection of drugs and sports is becoming a larger issue.

Richardson, for her part, said last year that she would feel “blessed and proud” if the attention her case raised affected a change in policy for other athletes. Even the White House and President Joe Biden himself have weighed in on the matter, with the president suggesting there’s a question about whether the marijuana ban should “stay the rules.”

Pound commented on the extreme punishment for Richardson’s positive cannabis test, saying he doesn’t understand why regulators “didn’t just say ‘sorry, about your mom, but for god’s sake, watch out for stuff like that because it’s still on the list and you’re subject to possible penalties,” rather than suspending it altogether.

In a previous interview with Marijuana Moment last year, he said the United States bore a great responsibility in enacting the cannabis ban.

Outside of international sports, national sports organizations in the United States have begun to adopt different policies when it comes to marijuana.

For example, the NFL’s drug testing policy has already changed demonstrably in 2020 as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

NFL players no longer face the possibility of being suspended from games for testing positive for any drug — not just marijuana — under a collective bargaining agreement. Instead, they will be fined. The threshold for what constitutes a positive THC test has also been raised as part of the deal.

The NBA announced late last year that it was extending its policy of not randomly testing players for marijuana through the 2021-22 season. The association will not randomly test players for THC; however, they will continue to test “for cause” cases where players have a history of substance use.

In a similar vein, MLB decided in 2019 to remove cannabis from the league’s banned substances list. Baseball players can use marijuana without risk of discipline, but officials clarified last year that they could not work under the influence and could not enter into sponsorship contracts with cannabis companies, less for now.

Marijuana icon Snoop Dogg, who was featured on the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday where a separate ad aired that indirectly supported legalization, argued that sports leagues need to stop testing drugs. players for marijuana and allowing them to use it as an alternative to prescription opioids.

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